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[Susan notes: This letter uses personal experience and evidence in an effective manner, and it has a great closing.]

Submitted to New York Times but not published
03/30/2004

To the editor



For teacher Marlene Heath (Op-ed, March 30) classroom conditions have improved since social promotion was ended in Chicago schools. But is the same true for the children "left behind" over

the past fourteen years? She offers us no evidence on which to hang that hope.



In the poor rural K-8 school where I was Principal for twelve years, we rarely held children back. When we did, it was a carefully

considered decision made by teachers, parents, the school counselor and me. We put the child's wellbeing first, not the comfort of the teacher in the next grade. And, which ever way we decided, we made a plan for improved instruction and support to help that child do better the following year. As a result of our policies and

everyone's hard work, our eighth grade reading test scores always showed at least 80 percent of our students reading at grade level.



Out of our experience I have some unsolicited advice for Ms. Heath. Worry more about the individual abilities and needs of your students and less about "sixth-grade-level work." And if you get another little girl in your class who can't read at all, teach her!



Joanne Yatvin


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